As a Canadian, and one who has degrees in Canadian and Quebec history, the phrase “Quiet Revolution” inevitably conjures images of Jean Lesage and the Quebec Liberal Party in the 1960s. This revolution, however, refers to the community webpage created by Susan Cain, the author of the book I’m reading, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. This book has been on my wishlist for a while. I have always scored very high on the introversion scale on all the personality tests I have taken over the years. My scores have been very consistent, including my Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBT), where I have been an INTJ since I first took the test in my early twenties. There has been a fair amount of literature about introversion over the recent years, likely inspired by this book.
Some people have a difficult time accepting that I’m an introvert because I am not shy. As a child, I was very bookish and studious and always had my nose buried in a book. I was also a very intellectually curious child, so I was often called precocious, as I always had a long list of questions to ask about everything. Because I asked these questions, and kept drilling down responses with further questions until I could make rational sense of what I heard (Typical INTJ), I was often called talkative, which is not a trait one normally associates with introverts. In my case, however, I spoke not because I wanted to engage in conversation for its own sake, but because I was looking for information to form an understanding of a particular concept.
An interesting lesson I learned as a child, and have continued to observe throughout my life, is that staying in my comfort zone of quiet often leads to misunderstandings, and questions such as “what’s wrong? Are you upset?” I have been labelled “moody” more times than I can recall, simply because of my preference for quiet and solitude. For most of my life, I have felt the pressure to work to extravert norms; this, sadly, is likely true of most introverts. I’m the person who cringes at the thought of having to go to a large social event; when I am there any small talk I make sounds forced to my ears. I’ve learned to “fake it,” thanks to years of practice, but the discomfort never goes away, and I escape as soon as I can.
This book provides an interesting look at how the characteristics of extraversion have become celebrated over the past 100 years. It doesn’t tell me anything about myself that I don’t already know, but it helps to put it into a larger societal context. It’s also refreshing to read a book where introversion and quiet are celebrated, rather than seen as traits to be overcome.